Cars We Love: 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe

This truly stunning car, designed by Bugatti founder Ettore Bugatti’s son Jean, has been called the first supercar. The prototype for the car was crafted from Elektron, a magnesium-aluminum alloy that was strong and lightweight (one-third the weight of aluminum). Unfortunately, Elektron was also highly flammable, so it couldn’t be welded. Jean Bugatti, clearly a talented designer, devised a way to rivet the pieces of the car together, and even more remarkably, managed to incorporate the rivets into the design in a way that’s jaw-droppingly beautiful.

When the Type 57SC Atlantic was actually produced (only three were built), the cars were made from aluminum, but the design element that originally accommodated the rivets was retained, giving the car the trademark “seam” along its elegant spine.

Only two of these cars remain in their original form today; the third was badly damaged in an accident and completely rebuilt. The one shown here, known as the Pope Car after its former owner R.B. Pope of London, is now in the collection of designer and classic car enthusiast Ralph Lauren. The car took “Best of Show” in 2013’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como, Italy. The other Type 57SC Atlantic tops our list of the 20 Most Expensive Cars Sold at Auction (though the deal was actually brokered privately). Sold for somewhere between $30 million and $40 million, this sleek, ice-blue beauty now resides in the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California.


Photo by Joe Cheng




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